What I’ve been listening to lately

  • Bud Powell – The Scene Changes. While I don’t always enjoy piano trios, this 1958 session is a great showcase for Powell’s percussive, vigorous playing, and has several of his catchy compositions as well. Along with Time Waits, this is becoming one of my favorites of his many recordings.
  • Ornette Coleman – Complete Science Fiction Sessions. This took a while to grow on me, and would be hard to recommend to anyone not already a fan–some of the goofy 70s experiments, like the title track, no longer hold up well. But there is some classic small-group work with Don Cherry and other collaborators here. And the vocal tracks are a surprise and a treat: the singing is largely straight, but is set in very effective contrast to freer playing in the background.
  • The Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes. Some of this material was previously released on the Live 1969 albums, which I listened to obsessively in college, so it won’t be wholly new to fans. But oh, there is a lot of great stuff here. The sound of this edition of the VU makes them one of the great rock bands–Maureen Tucker’s perfect, minimalist drumming, and the clean, crisp interlocking rhythm guitars.
  • John Coltrane – Transition. An often overlooked album, indeed I had overlooked it until now. But then current jazz phenom Kamasi Washington said it is his favorite Coltrane album, so it seemed worth checking out. This period of Coltrane is in fact usually very worthwhile: he’s testing the bounds of the classic Jones-Tyner quartet, but hasn’t quite gone off into his less-listenable free period. The long suite is quite good and surprisingly accessible.
  • Oran Etkin – Kelenia. The one-line summary of this album–jazz bass clarinet meets Malian music–was enough to send it to the top of the Batson playlist. There are indeed some nice tracks here, and the general vibe is good. Yet I wish I liked this album more: it’s a little too soft around the edges for my tastes. But I will also investigate other things this guy has done.


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